US retail spending jumped nearly 16% this year despite inflation, supply chain woes

Join us to hear more from Suzy Davidkhanian, eMarketer principal analyst at Insider Intelligence, as she unpacks our new 2022 retail ecommerce forecast and identifies a few trends to keep an eye on for the new year in our upcoming live Meet the Analyst Webinar, "US Ecommerce: A Closer Look at the Spending Boom.”

It’s hard to make heads or tails of the headlines from these past 18 months when it comes to the economy and retail health in the US.

On the one hand there is a lot of optimism. Lockdowns are lifted, borders are opening, and almost 60% of the US population is fully vaccinated. After spending much of the past year indoors, shoppers are ready to get out of their homes and upgrade their wardrobes. Retailers and brands, for the most part, had upbeat Q2 and Q3 earnings.

On the other hand, consumer confidence hit a 7-month low in September as inflation worries continue to swirl and brands like P&G announce price increases to counter higher raw material and freight costs. Global supply chain disruptions are impacting every category from footwear to cars and across the entire ecosystem from truck driver shortages to congested ports to capacity constraints that can’t meet demand.

Our forecast: Despite the headwinds, retail sales were up 15.5% YoY, crossing the 6 trillion dollar mark for the first time in 2021, according to our latest forecast. We expect sales to push past $7 trillion by 2024, with ecommerce accounting for nearly a quarter of total retail.

The euphoria and optimism of lifted lockdowns has resulted in revenge shopping across many “touch-and-feel” retail categories like apparel, accessories and beauty. This has had a positive impact on sales as consumers flocked back to brick-and-mortar, potentially shifting some of the dollars away from ecommerce. Store sales are forecast to reach $5.543 trillion, up a record 15.4%.

Meanwhile, we expect retail ecommerce sales to grow 16.1% to nearly $1 trillion in 2021, making up more than 1 in 10 dollars spent. Sales made via mobile helped to drive ecommerce’s growth during the pandemic; we expect mcommerce will make up 39.4% of retail ecommerce dollars this year. By 2025, ecommerce sales will reach $1.607 trillion, up 13.8% YoY.

Retailers ranked: It is no surprise that Amazon ranked No. 1 in retail ecommerce sales share, gaining nearly 2 percentage points and commanding a 41.0% market share in 2021. The company had big wins this year, including moving Prime Day to kick-off the back-to-school season and its first ever October beauty event, which offered online deals for beauty products from Amazon and other retailers for 3 weeks.


Apple, at No. 4 in our rankings, successfully launched a number of new products despite the ongoing chip shortage, and was the only other retailer to gain markedly. Fueled by pandemic behaviors spilling into 2021, Chewy and Etsy were the only other retailers to outpace the market, each gaining a tenth of a share point.

Retail transformed: The fundamental shift is that consumers, left without a choice, began to adopt technology to aid in their shopping at a much faster clip. Adoption of touchless solutions like mobile wallets or click-and-collect, which many retailers were already offering, exploded during the pandemic as safe and convenient benefits.

Going forward, consumers’ will double down on their newfound expectations for fast, easy and frictionless shopping experiences. Retailers will need to capitalize on consumers’ willingness to adapt to new technology and optimize digital capabilities in-store. And vice versa, retailers have to bring an optimal store experience online, where they’ll need to focus more on offering a cohesive on-brand experience across every channel along the customer journey.